Taranta Project - Ludovico Einaudi

Ponderosa Music & Art

The deeper the Italian boot sticks into the Mediterranean, the more it's washed by the cultural currents of Northern Africa and the Middle East. Salento represents the heel on the boot, a region known as Puglia that is arid and barren, subjected to the same dry winds as the Sahara to the south. It also marks the narrowest point on the Adriatic Sea between Italy, the Balkans and Greece, at the doorstep of Turkey and the lands of the Middle East. Salento is home to the hypnotic taranta, a trance-inducing rhythm said to be the only cure for the bite of the tarantula spider, which also makes its home in the region. Neuvo-classicist composer, Ludovico Einaudi hails from Italy's north but for his Taranta Project he's made a study of this music, this land, this connection to a less familiar side of his Italian heritage. It began a couple of years ago when he was asked to direct a concert in repetoire at Salento. "Before this experience I thought I was a boy from northern Italy,” confesses Einaudi. “After it, part of my heart is in Salento.” In the studio, the Taranta Project radiated outward in scope and influence with the help of some notable contemporaries. Robert Plant's sideman, Justin Adams has immersed himself in the desert blues along with Juldeh Camara, a Gambian spike fiddle player and his foil in the duo JuJu. Their strong presence on the album bridges the sea to tie the taranta to the equally hypnotic Saharan blues. Drawing from the east, Einaudi recruits Turkish music explorer, Mercan Dede aka DJ Arkin Allen. Acoustically, he brings wisps of the traditional Turkish ney flute and the buzzy Moroccan bendir frame drum. Electronically, he adds veiled mystery to Einaudi's classical melodies. African kora, the ancient desert harp adds further to the swirl of global textures courtesy of Ballake Sissoko, and grandeur prevails throughout by the Roma Film Orchestra. Delicate and at times, even raw and volatile, the Taranta Project is one of the most compelling contemporary global collaborations to date. The quintessential close female harmonies of the introduction create instant intrigue for the lush and satisfying journey to come, at times grounded in Einaudi's pretty classical compositions and otherwise in full fiery flight during guitar -driven tracks like Nazzu Nazzu and the title, Taranta. The one reservation worth noting is that for all the Taranta Project's density of folkloric, electric and orchestra elements, the recording is disappointingly flat. Listeners may want to crank it up a notch. I would love to hear what today's crop of remixers could do to fatten up the compositions.